A lesbian couple and their family, who were featured in an advert for a Russian supermarket chain that led to a national scandal have fled the country after facing online abuse and death threats.
Mother Yuma, daughters Mila and Alina, and Alina’s girlfriend Ksyusha have said they were forced to leave Russia for Spain after they featured in an ad in which they said they enjoyed VkusVill’s onigiri rice balls and hummus.
“Unfortunately, due to the complicated situation with VkusVill, we have been left without work and without a home,” wrote daughter Mila on Instagram, posting a picture from a balcony in Spain.
“Right now me and my family very much need to get settled in Barcelona. It’s a difficult time for us and we need friends,” she continued. “Maybe the friends of your friends or their friends can help us start our new life in Barcelona.”
The ad met with a conservative backlash in Russia, which passed a law in 2013 banning “gay propaganda”. VkusVill quickly pulled the advertisement and replaced it with one that featured heterosexual families. It issued a public apology and said the original ad “hurt the feelings of a large number of our customers and employees”.
After the ad’s removal, the family said they were targeted by a hate campaign, culminating in the four women fleeing to Spain in order to ensure their safety.
The ad was initially posted to the company’s official website as well as other social media channels. The chain quickly pulled the ad after an intense backlash and replaced the lesbian family with another heterosexual family.
The family at the centre of the storm, Yuma and her daughters Mila and Alina, along with Alina’s fiancee Ksyusha, have reportedly faced ongoing harassment and threats. Mila told the BBC that her family had been subjected to homophobic abuse and “threats to murder my family”. She added that they had also received just as many messages of support. …
The advertisement was released with an 18+ warning label in an effort to fall in line with the “gay propaganda law,” which was signed into law by President Vladimir Putin in June 2013. The controversial law bans the “promotion of nontraditional sexual relations to minors.” Violators of the law can face heavy fines with organisations and businesses subject to fines of one million rubles and forced closures for up to 90 days.
Company Apologises, Pulls Ad The company released an apology on its official Facebook page, signed by the founder of VkusVill, Andrey Krivenko and many of his management team. The post said, “There was an article here that hurt the feelings of many of our customers, staff, partners and suppliers. We regret that this has happened and consider the publication to be our mistake, arising from a lack of professionalism on the part of the brand’s employees. The aim of our company is to help our customers have access to fresh and delicious produce and not to publish materials expressing political opinions or various points of view held by society. In no way did we wish to become a source of discord or hatred.”